Making Justice Real

The Official Blog of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

TANF benefits to be cut for some families as of April 1, 2011.

Jennifer Mezey, Supervising Attorney

As of April 1, 2011, thousands of TANF recipients who have received benefits for 60 months or more will experience a 20 percent cut in their benefits as a result of DC Council actions taken earlier this year.  If you work with this client community, we are writing to ask you to spread the word to TANF recipients that if their benefits are cut or they think their benefits have been cut, legal advice and assistance is available.

TANF recipients can contact any of the organizations listed on the attached flyer or call the Legal Aid TANF hotline at (202) 887-4170.  They can speak to a lawyer who can determine if (and why) their benefits have been cut and whether they might qualify for an exemption.  Service providers can also call to learn more about the benefit cuts and how they will affect their clients.

The attached flyer provides more details about how to get help.  We would really appreciate it if you could circulate to your networks and post in your offices.  (Spanish translation to be available soon.)

Background on the cuts

In December, the DC Council adopted a $4.5 million cut to the District’s TANF program.  On April 1, 2011, the District will implement this reduction through a 20 percent benefit cut for TANF households who have received benefits for 60 months or more counting from March 1997.

Any month in which the TANF household met any one of the following criteria will NOT count towards the 60 month limit;

  1. A TANF household was headed by a grandparent or other relative whose needs were not included in the grant – a “child only” household;
  2. A TANF household that was headed by a parent(s) receiving SSI while the children received TANF;
  3. A TANF household that was receiving benefit through the POWER program (for individuals whose physical or mental disabilities make them unable to work or participate in work activities).

The impact of these cuts

TANF advocates are very concerned about the impact that these cuts will have on these vulnerable families.  Even a full TANF grant puts a family at less than 30 percent of the federal poverty level.  As we all know, TANF families have difficulty meeting their most basic needs even with Food Stamps and Medicaid as well.

Unfortunately, this benefit cut will have the largest impact on the District’s most vulnerable TANF recipients.  Studies of states that have implemented these kinds of cuts show that families who have been on TANF for five years or more likely face multiple work barriers including disability and domestic violence.  Losing a portion of their grant will only make these families more vulnerable.

Help spread the word

Please help us reach as many TANF recipients as possible to let them know that help is available.

  • We want to make sure that families whose benefits are cut really received TANF for 60 months or more.
  • We want to make sure that all TANF recipients who qualify (or should qualify) for exemptions receive them.  This is particularly important for individuals with disabilities.  We know that there are significant numbers of TANF recipients who struggle with mental and physical disabilities.  However, there are only a few hundred families enrolled in the POWER program, due, in large part, to the District’s failure to adequately assess and refer individuals with disabilities to services.   We want to make sure that individuals with disabilities that qualify them for POWER get the services they need and are protected from any future benefit cuts.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact:

Jennifer Mezey or Andrew Patterson at Legal Aid (jmezey@legalaiddc.<orgmailto:jmezey@legalaiddc.org> or apatterson@legalaiddc.<orgmailto:apatterson@legalaiddc.org>)

Marta Beresin or Becky O’Brien at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless (marta@legalclinic.<orgmailto:marta@legalclinic.org> or becky@legalclinic.<orgmailto:becky@legalclinic.org>) or

Stacy Braverman or Allison Miles-Lee at Bread for the City (sbraverman@BreadFortheCity.<orgmailto:sbraverman@BreadFortheCity.org> or amiles-lee@BreadFortheCity.org )

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TANF Hotline Flyer Final

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